Part 2: Textual Analysis in Year 10

Want to take your textual analysis to the next level, but don't know where to start? In this article, we will show you how to increase the insights and complexity of your textual analysis in Year 10.

Textual analysis in Year 10 is the same as in Year 9, right? Wrong. In Year 10, you need to take a more detailed and specific approach to analysing your English texts. In this article, we are going to tell what changes and how to approach these new challenges so you can ace English!


In this article, we discuss:


How does textual analysis change in Year 10?

The process of textual analysis doesn’t change. You will still need to do three readings of a text a develop from comprehension to detailed analysis.

The difficulty and complexity of what you are analysing will change.

You will need to tackle more challenging texts and look for techniques, but they will be higher order techniques. You will need to think about how these techniques create meaning, but then relate them to things like genre, context, or values.

Matrix students learn to follow the Matrix MethodTM so they can produce unique and powerful insights into texts.

Matrix Method For English Overview (2)

In this article, we will show you how to develop a comprehensive understanding and set of insights into your text. This article assumes that you have read the Beginner’s Guide to Year 9 English article on textual analysis, if you haven’t, you should take the time to read it, first.


Revision: How to analyse texts – step by step

Remember, there are three steps when you analyse a text. Each one involves reading or viewing your text once.


Matrix Method For English STEP 1 (2)


Read the text to see the big picture:

  • Enjoy the text!
  • Pay attention to characters
  • Pay attention to plot
  • Try and identify themes
The second reading is where you identify key moments or scene in a text.

In your second reading:

  • Pay attention to key scenes and chapters
  • Consider how characters are developed
  • Consider how the structure of the text develops the plot
  • Connect the development of themes to key scenes
  • Identify consistent motifs and symbols
  • Make a list of key or crucial moments
  • Make notes on themes, characters, and structure

Matrix Method For English STEP 3 (2)

In your third reading you must:

  • Return to the key moments in the text
  • Analyse how meaning is developed
  • Connect the meaning in key moments to the text as a whole
  • Consider how the ideas and representations in the text connect to your experience
  • Ask how the text resonates and compares to other texts
  • Think about how the text relates to or comments upon its context
  • Analyse how the composer has used higher order techniques
  • Explore how the text employs or challenges the conventions of genre or form
  • Consider how the composer has used grammar or syntax to create meaning
  • Make detailed notes

What do these new considerations mean for your studies?

These new considerations:

  • Context
  • Perspective
  • Form and structure
  • Genre
  • Higher order thinking

Mean that you will need to start doing more independent research around your texts.

You will also need to start keeping notes on things that aren’t necessarily related to the study of just one text.

Conscientious and driven students will start keeping a journal or glossary with definitions and examples of these new considerations.

In Year 10, you will acquire a significant amount of new information that is very important for your study of texts in Years 11 and 12.


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What new things do I need to look for in texts?

Before we get stuck into how to analyse texts in Year 10, we should outline the new considerations you must incorporate into your analysis.

In Year 10, your analysis needs more depth

From a basic to an in-depth understanding

When we discuss an in-depth understanding, in Year 10 we mean having a detailed knowledge of the text and its production.

This means that you have to start coming to grips with a significant amount of new information:

  • Details about different contexts
  • Different artistic movements
  • Genres and their conventions
  • The conventions and effects of form and perspective
  • Higher order figurative techniques

Form, structure, and conventions

Form refers to the type of text you are looking at. In its glossary of key terms, The NSW Educations Standards Authority (NESA) defines Textual Form as,

The conventions specific to a particular type of text, often signalling content, purpose and audience, for example letter form, drama script, blog.

Structure, in contrast, refers to how the text is organised. NESA provides the following definition:

“The ways information is organised in different types of texts, for example chapter headings, subheadings, tables of contents, indexes and glossaries, overviews, introductory and concluding paragraphs, sequencing, topic sentences, taxonomies, cause and effect. Choices in text structures and language features together define a text type and shape its meaning.

It is important that you start to think about form and structure in greater detail. You need to know the conventions – that is, the accepted practices, methods, and appearances associated with something – of both textual and form so that you can consider how a composer has followed or challenged these conventions.

One aspect of form and structure you should consider is perspective.


Considering different perspectives

Perspective refers to the view of the action presented to an audience in a text.

Perspective is important because it shapes how we view the action. In Year 10, you need to carefully consider the effect of perspective on the action in a text.

For example, first-person narration clearly bias us towards the views of the narrator, but what about third person texts? Can we say they are presented from an objective view?


Thinking about contexts

Texts aren’t produced in a vacuum. Context shape or influence what composers represent and how they represent it.

Composers – writers, poets, artists, filmmakers, dramatists – all live through particular time periods. The key events, values, and attitudes of these periods influence creators.

Sometimes composers like to reinforce and celebrate the values and attitudes of their context, other times they challenge them!

To be able to assess this, you need to have an understanding of the period when a text is produced. In Year 10, you need to develop this knowledge so you have it Stage 6.


Artistic movements

For each context, there are a variety of artistic movements that emerge. It is important that you have a broad understanding of these.

Most artists, irrespective of medium of production – are inspired by their peers and forebears or try to challenge them.

Having a basic understanding of the movements from each contextual period will allow you to make judgements about whether the composer of your text is challenging or celebrating that movement.

For example, it’s hard to understand how revolutionary an artist somebody like Billie Eilish is unless you have an understanding of contemporary pop music from the 2010s.

Having conventions around genre allows composers to subvert our expectations.

Genre and genre conventions

We categorise texts into different genres based upon their content or form and structure.

Genre can be quite complex in that we might distinguish a type of literature, for example, science fiction, as being a particular genre of writing, but we will then categorise poetry as a separate genre. Confusing matters further, there are different genres in poetry, for example, romantic or confessional.

In Year 10, you need to start learning about a variety of different genres. In addition, you need to know about the conventions of the genres. Often texts manipulate or merge different genres to produce something new and engaging.

In your studies of texts, you will need to think about genre and consider how your text conforms to or challenges these structures.

A good example of this is James Mangold’s Wolverine film, Logan. While ostensibly a superhero film, it actually follows the conventions of a 1950s western, specifically an anti-western where the hero is an anti-hero rather than a conventional hero. This was a unique take on a super-hero film.


Higher order techniques

You’ve already started looking at texts and analysing them for their use of literary, rhetorical, filmic, poetic, and/or, dramatic devices.

In Year 10, you need to start thinking about techniques that function across the entirety of a text, rather than just isolated examples of techniques in particular scenes.

You also need to think about more complex, so-called ‘higher order techniques,’ like parody, irony, and satire that develop meaning in complex ways.

Some of the techniques you need to consider are:

  • Satire
  • Irony
  • Parody
  • Imagery, motif, and symbolism
  • Extended metaphor and epic simile
  • Connotation


Critical thinking

Critical thinking is a  cognitive process where you consider various facts in relation to one another to form a judgement about something.

In Year 10, you need to consider your texts and the themes and idea they contain in light of the things we’ve looked at above. Sometimes you may only need to consider how one category of things relate to a text, for example, a text’s genre or form, other times you may need to consider several things, such as the relationship between a text’s meaning, genre, and context.

What we will do now is look at these categories in greater detail and give you a process for analysing them.


Analysing form and structure

Form and structure are important aspects of a text’s construction that get taken for granted. For example, we might read a book and take for granted that it is a novel without thinking about what our expectations of that form are.

We expect a novel to be told from either the first or third person. We expect the narrator to be honest and reliable. We expect it to narrated in either the past or present tense. We don’t expect to find any pictures in it.

However, sometimes texts don’t follow these expectations. For example, Mark Z. Danielewski’s House of Leaves is a bricolage text that mixes text, images, and a variety of different genres to tell an unsettling narrative. This combination creates ambiguity and is something unusual worth discussing.

Danilewski’s “House of Leaves” breaks many structural conventions to immerse readers.

In Year 10, you will need to consider these aspects of the texts you study.


Why are form and structure important?

Form and structure are used to present information to audiences in an accessible way. In addition, form and structure create expectations.

For example, the structure of a Shakespearean tragedy usually has 5 acts were the tension rises to a climax somewhere in the third act and then crescendos to a tragic climax over the final two.

Similarly, we expect a narrative to be told from a singular perspective, so when we read Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein we are surprised to be confronted by a narrative told from several different narrators presenting first-person perspectives as letters and diary entries.

To best appreciate the impact of form and structure on meaning, we need to know a wide variety of forms and structures.


Important forms and structures

First, let’s consider the important forms you should know. remember, form refers to the type of text and its conventions

Written forms:

  • Short fiction and short stories: Narratives between 500-6,00 words that tell a contained narrative or episode of a larger, untold,  narrative.
  • Novellete: A shorter narrative of between 6,000 and 12,000 words. Novelletes normally centre on sentimental or romantic themes.
  • Novella: A narrative of between 12,000 and 30,000 that focus on character development and a singular plotline. It lacks the complexity and experimental aspects of the novel, often focusing on a single event or concern.
  • Novel: A narrative of longer than 30,000. Novels usually explore complex human experiences in detail and often from a variety of different perspectives.
  • Prose poem: A piece of prose that employs poetic features to convey a narrative or political or philosophical ideas. Arthur Rimbaud’s “Un Saison En Enfer” is a good example of a prose poem.
  • Dramatic scripts: These are the scripts of dramatic works like those by William Shakespeare or Alice Birch.
  • Feature articles: A prominent or lead article in a magazine. Usually used for investigative journalism or a discussion piece on an event, person, or thing.
  • Newspaper articles: An article in the newspaper reporting facts that have occurred.
  • Biographies and autobiographies: Accounts of individuals written by themselves or others.
  • Essay: A piece of writing that discusses a topic. In contemporary times they are usually persuasive. However, discursive essays that explore an idea are becoming popular again.
  • Blogs and vlogs: A digital diary or essay that discusses events or records opinions and personal experiences. Blogs can be journalistic, creative, or personal in nature.
  • Reports, journals, diaries, memos: Records kept by people for personal, professional, or scientific reasons.
  • Letters and emails: Communications sent between people

Visual forms:

  • Photographs: Images taken with a camera and possibly altered digitally or by hand
  • Paintings: Images created using paints and other materials
  • Sculptures: Objects created using a variety of different materials such as stone, metal, or paper
  • Art Installations: Large pieces of art that often have several components to be viewed or even walked through60 minutes and relate a complex narrative.
  • Television series: A series of episodes that tell a serialised narrative. Some series are produced with a finite narrative arc and number of episodes in mind, others continue to develop over time. Consider the difference between Game of Thrones and Home and Away.
  • Documentaries and documentary series: Films and TV series that purport to be non-fiction and relate events or profiles of people.


  • Narrative structure: The sequence of events. We usually expect narratives to be told in a linear fashion. Most plays, for example, begin at the start and conclude at the end of events. Similarly, many novels follow this pattern. Some texts break this convention by beginning in medias res or presenting events out of order. The common narrative structures are:
    • Linear: events are recounted in chronological order
    • Non-linear: Events are recounted in an interrupted or disjointed fashion
    • Interactive fiction: A narrative where the reader or viewer influences the outcome of the plot by making choices. Examples of this are Choose Your Own Adventure Novels or Netflix’s episode of Black Mirror “Bandersnatch”
  • Chapters: Novels are normally broken up into scenes and sequences of events as separate chapters. Tv series have episodes which usually tell a moment of a broader story
  • Characterisation: We expect detailed and developed characters to be part of a text’s structure.
  • Paragraphing: The organisation of blocks of information in a written form. paragraphing usually comes with conventions around using topic sentences and linking sentences to orient readers.


Thinking about the subversion and manipulation of form and structure form

Each of the forms and structures that we’ve listed above has a particular set of conventions associated with it.

These conventions have developed through usage. For example, the novel wasn’t always as we expect it today. Early novels were often episodic collections of events, such as Boccaccio’s Decameron. Other texts began as serialised publications and were later compiled into novels, the works of Charles Dickens and Leo Tolstoy are examples of this.

Because we know what these conventions are, we have certain expectations around them. When a text breaks these conventions it develops meaning in an unusual way.

Let’s consider Ransom Riggs’ Miss Peregrine’s School for Peculiar Children. It is a Young Adult fantasy novel.

It begins by following a conventional narrative structure but begins incorporating photographs to convey information. These images often stand in opposition to the narrator’s perspective of things, creating ambiguity and, thus, developing tension. When Jacob discoveries the photos the mysterious children and their abilities, he thinks they are doctored, but these are clues for the reader that later become examples of dramatic irony as these characters appear later in the text.


How to analyse a text’s form and structure: Step by step

  1. Read or view your text:  You need to learn what your text is about
  2. Read or view your text again: Pay attention to the medium of production and form of the text
  3. As you view, make notes: Write down any things you noticed about the form of the text and the way meaning is presented
  4. Research: Do you some research about the form and structure of your text. Try and find out the conventions that are usually used.
  5. Read or view your text again:  As you engage with it, consider how your text adheres to or subverts the conventions of structure and form.
  6. Make detailed notes: Write down your findings. You may find that using tables to compare the conventions to the text is an effective way to document your findings.

If you wanted to record your findings in a table, you may find the following template useful:

Text title: Momento (2000), Directed by Christopher Nolan

A table for analysing the structure of the film, Momento.
Form: FilmLinear narrativeNarrative told in a non-linear manner.

It begins at the end and tells the preceding events in a jumbled order.

Leonard is characterised as a man suffering from memory loss
PerspectiveThird personNarrative told from first personNarrative is told from Leonard’s perspective. His suspicions become our suspicions.

We trust him as a narrator, allowing us to be surprised when we learn that he is not reliable.

CharacterisationTrustworthy narratornarrators are usually honest and reliableLeonard has a flawed memory and is only showing us things he wants us to know.

Once you have considered form and structure, you need to think about genre.


Analysing genre

Genre is a way to categorise according to their content, form, or structure.

Importance of genre?

Genre is important because it helps us categorise texts and have an understanding of what the content or structure of a text will be.

Genres come with sets of expectations are that are generated by the conventions they use.


Subverting or adhering to genre conventions

A typical example of a genre convention is opening doors in scary films. Because scary films have a long-standing convention of characters opening doors with dramatic consequences, usually signified by a jump scare (a frightening moment in a text created by something sudden and unexpected happening). Contemporary films are aware that audiences are sued to this convention and drag them out.

In the recent Andy Muscetti adaptation of IT (2018), the director often protracts the jump scares by having characters open numerous doors and other objects forcing the audience to wait tensely for the scare to occur. In some scenes, the scare doesn’t happen, leaving the viewer with an increased sense of dread that is heightened the next time a door is opened.

The detective genre traditionally presents sleuths as heroic figures who save the day and solve the mystery. However, Raymond Chandler’sThe Big Sleep included imagery of chivalry and knights from the romance tales of the middle ages (those about King Arthur and Sir Lancelot) while presenting a hero who was not particularly chivalrous or polite. Chandler’s anti-hero Phillip Marlowe defied convention and redefined the genre of crime fiction.

Texts often combine genres or take them out of one setting and place them into another. For example, Akira Kurosawa took the conventions of the American Western in Yojimbo and The Seven Samurai and moved the action to feudal Japan, creating the genre of the samurai film. Sam Peckinpah then took Kurosawa’s genre and brought it back to America with the subversive The Wild Bunch which recast cowboys as figures of violence and not heroism.

In your study of texts, you need to consider the genre of the text you are studying and how it keeps to or challenges the genre or genres it fits into.


Important genres

To understand how a text employs genre to develop meaning, you will need to know a variety of genres and their conventions. We’ve compiled a list of common genres and links to help you learn more about them and their conventions.

Fiction (text and screen):

  • Drama: relationships between people
  • Comedy: Texts that are humorous. Traditionally narratives that ended with a marriage or marriages. (E.g. Shakespeare’s a Midsummer’s Night’s Dream.)
  • Bildungsroman: The story of a character’s journey to adulthood.
  • Romance: Traditionally a narrative about knights and chivalry. Contemporary narratives are about relationships between couples.
  • Gothic: Texts that have overtones of foreboding and fear and elements of horror but aren’t necessarily horror.
  • Science-fiction: Narratives with futuristic elements. They can be set in the near future or far future, on earth or in far off galaxies.
  • Horror: Texts that involve the supernatural or abhorrent human behaviour.
  • Action/ Adventure: Stories that tell stories of daring-do and excitement.
  • Historical fiction: Texts that fictionalise historical events.
  • Travel writing: A genre of writing that describes foreign locations and travel to places.
  • Crime / Noir: Stories based around resolving crimes.
  • Thrillers: Stories that have a lot of tension and suspense. Thrillers often overlap genres.
  • Satire: Narratives that hold certain values and attitudes up for ridicule and scorn.


  • Elegy: A poem that mourns or is mournful in tone.
  • Epic: A poem cataloguing heroic deeds
  • Epitaph: A funeral inscription.
  • Narrative: A poem that relates a narrative
  • Bucolic: Poetry that relates idyllic pastoral settings
  • Confessional: Deeply personal poetry
  • Ekphratic: Poems that describe other pieces of art
  • Verse epistle: A letter composed in verse that discusses philosophical or romantic questions


  • Persuasive essays and texts: Texts, speeches, and essays that seek to persuade the reader of a point or idea.
  • Informative essays and texts: Texts that are written with the intent to inform. Like a textbook or scientific or historical texts.
  • Discursive essays: Essays that explore a subject or idea without attempting to persuade the reader
  • Feature articles: The main story in a magazine or newspaper that focuses on idea, thing, place, or person in detail.
  • Editorial: An article in a newspaper that relates information through a particular lens of opinion. Usually reflects the newspaper’s political views.

While we’ve considered how fiction genres can be blurred or merged, non-fiction and poetic genres can also be incorporated into fiction works. Brett Easton Ellis’ American Psycho incorporates faux persuasive essays and music reviews as part of its narrative. Similarly, Douglas Adam’s The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy includes conventional reviews and informative essays that you find in travel writing, only they are about fictional inter-galactic places.

Now you know what genre is, what the common genres are, and why they are important to know, let’s look at a simple step-by-step way of considering the effect of genre on your text’s genre.

How to analysing genre in texts- step by step

  • Read or view your text:  You need to learn what your text is about
  • Read or view your text again: Pay attention to the genre or genres the composer has used for the text
  • As you view, make notes: Write down any things you noticed about the genre of the text and how it shapes your expectations
  • Research: Do you some research about the genre or genres used in your text. Try and find out the conventions that are usually used.
  • Read or view your text again:  As you engage with it, consider how your text adheres to or subverts the conventions of a genre. If your text is blending or bending genres, you need to think about the expectations and conventions of each and how well they sit together. For example, Guillermo del Toro’s Shape of the Water combines horror with romance, genres that are often exclusionary of one another.
  • Make detailed notes: Write down your findings. You may find that using tables to compare the conventions to the text is an effective way to document your findings.
TextGenre and conventionUse in textEffect
The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, Douglas AdamsScience fiction: Narratives set in far-flung locations or including futuristic technology. The genre is often used to pose philosophical questions

Travel writing: Reviews and accounts of visiting locations with the aim of convincing others to visit, or not visit, those places.

Adams blends travel writing and science fiction in his account of Arthur Dent’s journey around the galaxy. The text includes reviews and travel hints about the locations he visits.Humour and irony. The appropriation of travel writing is used to create humorous observations about human nature, such as our ability to over-estimate our own importance as a species.
Table: Analysis of genre in The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy



Analysing context

Context refers to circumstances that surround the composition of a text and the life of its composer.

What is context, exactly?

Context is a very broad concept. The context of a text can include:

  • The period when a text was composed or events in it are set
  • The historical events and personalities of the period
  • The geographic location of a text’s production or where the composer lived
  • The economic conditions of the period and location
  • The cultural or religious values of the period or location
  • The political beliefs and ideologies of the period and location
  • The artistic and intellectual movements of the time, or previous times, that have, or may have, influenced the composer
  • Even important texts that are reflective of that period can be construed as important.

Context can be both internal and external to a text. For example, the history plays of Shakespeare have an internal context – that of the period they depict – and the external context of the Elizabethan period that shaped Shakespeare’s life. When you analyse the context of a play like Henry IV part 1, you need to understand both contexts so that you can see how Shakespeare has taken the values of his time and inserted them into the 15th century to create meaning in his play.


Values and attitudes

When we discuss context, we often start speaking about the values and attitudes of the period without realising it.

Values are the moral, cultural, political, and religious beliefs that a society or community hold in general. Values are not static, they can shift rapidly and dramatically over time.

Attitudes are individuals’ views towards a society’s values. Some people celebrate the values of their society, others challenge them. For example, if a society has strong or extreme religious beliefs that shape laws, individuals may have attitudes that are negative towards these laws as they feel a secular society would be better or fairer.

There is a constant interplay between values and attitudes.

When you think about a text’s context, you need to start thinking about the values of the period it was composed in and comparing them to the values and attitudes expressed within the text.

First, you need to know about some key contexts and artistic and intellectual movements. Let’s begin with key contexts.


Important contexts

Here are the contexts you must learn about. You don’t need to know the specific details of each, but you should have an idea of the key figures and events.

Contexts you need to know:

  • The Classical Period: This refers to the Ancient world of Ancient Greece and then Rome. While you don’t need to be an Ancient History guru, you should have a broad understanding of:
    • Ancient Greece: This refers to the period from about the 12th century BCE to about 600 AD in the Greek Empire. You should have a rough idea of the major philosophical figures and works like Homer’s Odyssey and Illiad.
    • Ancient Rome: Ancient Rome refers to the founding of Rome in the 8th century BCE to the collapse of the empire in about the 6th century. You should know the basics of major figures of the period like Caesar, Marc Antony, Caesar Augustus and important literary figures like Ovid and Virgil.
  • The Renaissance: What we call the Renaissance is the period from the end of the middle ages in about 1300 through to around 1600 (although it is unlikely that people living during the Renaissance thought of it as such). This is a period characterised by a renewed interest in classical thought and philosophy and renewed scientific discovery. You should have a broad sense of the important figures and ideas from the period like Martin Luther, Dante, Machiavelli, Michelangelo, Da Vinci, Artemisia Gentileschi, Caravaggio, Shakespeare, Marlowe.
  • Elizabethan England: A key period of early modern England. The period between 1550 saw profound change as Anglicanism became England’s dominant religion. Significant artists such as Marlowe, Shakespeare, and John Donne emerged. England cemented is reputation as a growing power.
  • The Colonial Era: The period of colonisation from the 17th century until the 20th century. This refers to those nations that colonised nations around the world as well as those occupied and subjugated by European powers (including nations like Australia, America, India and all of the Americas). The Colonial Era has had profound effects on almost all nations around the world.
  • The Georgian period and The Regency: This was a tumultuous period in Britain where King George was forced to abdicate due to mental illness. During this time Napoleon was defeated at the battle of Waterloo. Important artists from this time include Jane Austen and Mary Shelley, the romantic poets like Coleridge and Wordsworth and Mary Shelley’s husband, Percy. Significant intellectual figures like Mary Wollstonecraft, Joseph Banks, and Thomas de Quincy.
  • The Victorian Era: This refers to the UK from about 1830 through to 1900. It is an important period for the development of ideas and national identity in the lead up to the 20th century and the World Wars. England became a dominant world power during this period.
  • The early USA: You should have a rough understanding of what happened in the USA from the revolution of 1776 through to the Civil War of 1861-1865. While you don’t need to know the specifics of each, you should have a rough idea of the role of slavery and the rise of democracy in both of these events. America’s rise has shaped much of the modern world.
  • The World Wars: Both World War One and World War Two were pivotal events that reshaped the world and killed millions. At the very least, you should know the dates, nations involved, and key events.
  • The Cold War: This refers to the conflict between the Allies led by the USA and the Soviet Union from 1947 through to the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991. The Cold War was fought through proxy conflicts like the Vietnam War and The Cuban Missile Crisis. The Cold War shaped contemporary perspectives on communism and capitalism. It had profound ramifications for art and literature.

There are many other contexts that you may need to study and research. Learning how to research the above contexts on your own, will prepare you for learning about other periods


Now, let’s look at some important intellectual and artistic movements.

Postmodernism saw ironic appropriations of cultural icons become a feature of art

Important movements

To get a sense of what artists were attempting to or what they were responding to, you should have a rough knowledge of:

  • Renaissance Art and Humanist Literature: Literature created during the Renaissance that reflects the changing values and attitudes of the period.
  • The Enlightenment: This is the period during the 18th century when a confluence of different ideas, inventions, and artistic groups emerged and celebrated what was hoped to a progressive watershed for humanity.
  • Romanticism: A movement originating in England and spreading to the United States. It was characterised by a focus on the power and sublime grandeur of the natural world.
  • Gothic: A sub-genre of literature that emerged during the Romantic period. it is marked by a pleasing aesthetic sense of terror and usually combines themes of love, death, and horror.
  • Transcendentalism: A movement that emerged out of Romanticism that saw nature possessing a sense of divinity. Emily Dickinson is one of the most studied artists of this period.
  • Victorian Literature: Literature produced during the Victorian period. It usually celebrated colonialism and scientific progress. The values of Victorian literature were conservative and reflected the British Queen’s values or radically challenged them. For example, Oscar Wilde and Christina Rossetti challenged the expectations and moral tyranny that many found during Victoria’s rule.
  • Realism: A literary movement characterised by trying to render characters and moments in intricate detail and complexity. In art, realism was marked by painstaking detail
  • Symbolism: An artistic and poetic movement that rejected the values of realism. Symbolists felt that important truths could only be conveyed indirectly or abstractly.
  • Modernism: Modernism was a reaction against 18th-century values. Some argue it ran from the start of the 20th century through to the 1960s, others say it ran from the 1870s through to 1945 and the dropping of the atomic bomb. It included quite a few other movements like cubism, imagism, absurdism, expressionism, futurism, and surrealism. Modernist art was often nakedly political and driven by manifestos.
  • Cubism: One of the key movements within Modernism. It emerged out of Paris in the works of noted misogynist and artist Pablo Picasso and his friend Georges Braque. Cubism attempted to present the experience of a subject by presenting it from multiple perspectives simultaneously.
  • Absurdism: Absurdism was built on the philosophical ideas of Søren Kierkegaard. Absurdism was a broad movement across the arts founded in the paradox of humanity’s desire to find meaning in life and our general failure to find lasting purpose in a cold, vast, chaotic and meaningless universe. The ideas of Absurdism found their way into visual art and literary art. Franz Stuck, Albert Camus, Ralph Ellison, and Samuel Beckett.
  • Beat Generation: The Beat Generation was a group of writers and artists who emerged out of New York in the post-World War 2 period. The predominantly male, middle-class writers and poets met at Columbia University and produced art that challenged establishment sensibilities and taboos. Even though it was a relatively small movement, it left a large footprint on contemporary art.
  • Existentialism: A movement that was concerned with trying to find meaning and understanding in the world. It developed from philosophical ideas that explored how humans should try and find meaning in their lives. It was closely tied to Absurdism. Key figures include Simone de Beauviour, John Paul Satre, and Martin Heidegger.
  • Postcolonialism: Postcolonialism is a broad term that has come to encompass any literature that challenges the legacy of colonialism and the colonial powers (England, France, Belgium, Germany, The USA) on the world. The first notable work was Chinua Achebe’s novel Things Fall Apart (1958). Postcolonial literature challenges issues like systematic racism and nationalism that excludes indigenous peoples. Important writers include Zadie Smith, Arundhati Roy, Michael Ondjaate, and Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. Australian Aboriginal literature often gets categorised as postcolonial literature.
  • Aboriginal Australian and Torres Strait Islander literature: Aboriginal Australian and Torres Strait Islander literature is literature produced by Australia’s First Peoples. It explores the damage of Australia’s colonial past on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander identity and concepts of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander identity in contemporary society. Important figures are Oodgeroo Noonunccal, David Unaipon, Kim Scott, Alexis Wright, and Anita Heiss.
  • Australian Literature: Literature produced here in Australia. Australian literature is characterised by grappling with issues of Australian identity: questions of Australia’s convict past and Australia’s mistreatment of Aboriginal Australians.
  • Postmodernism: Postmodernism is a contemporary movement beginning in the mid to late 20th century. Postmodernism is characteristed by scepticism, irony, and the rejection of the ideologies of Modernism. Postmodernism tends to reject the notion of absolute truths or the idea of a singular and correct worldview. Important artists include Jorge Luis Borges, Kathy Acker, Kurt Vonnegut, Umberto Eco, Spike Jonez, Charlie Kaufman, Claire Denis and Sophia Coppola.

Analysing texts for context: step-by-step

  • Read or view your text:  You need to learn what your text is about
  • Read or view your text again: Pay attention to the
  • As you view, make notes: Write down any things you noticed about the
  • Research: Do you some research about the aspect of context you need to consider. Try and find out as much as you can in an hour or two.
  • Read or view your text again:  As you engage with it, consider how your text reflects this context. Does it embrace the values and events from the period? Does it challenge them?
  • Make detailed notes: Write down your findings. You may find that using tables to make notes about the influence of context on the text or the depiction of context in the text an effective way to document your findings. Comparing the internal and external contexts of a text is an effective way of developing insights into a text, especially the relationship between the values and attitudes represented in it.



Higher order techniques you will need to know for textual analysis in Year 10

In Year 10, you will need to identify and discuss higher order literary techniques. These are techniques that are developed throughout the whole of a piece of work. In addition, these techniques aren’t just limited to written texts.



Is a device that holds an individual or society’s vices, stupidity, stubbornness up for ridicule. Satire is aimed at provoking change by signalling the failures of a particular behaviour.

Satire is usually contextually relevant. Most satirists take aim at the behaviours or values of the specific period or place they live in.

This means that as a student, you need to understand and be able to explain the following questions:

  • What is being satirised?
  • How it is being satirised?
  • What the composer was trying to achieve by satirising it?
  • How is this is reflective of the composer’s context?

Satire is an old genre that was an integral part of Ancient Greek society. Most civilisations have a history of satirising their governments or leaders, legally or illegally. Sometimes satirists are celebrated, other times they are egregiously punished.

Famous examples of satire include Joseph Heller’s Catch-22, Jonathon Swift’s essay “A modest proposal” (1729) and novel Gulliver’s Travels (1726), George Orwell’s Animal Farm (1945), the TV shows Southpark and The Simpsons, and contemporary comedians like Dave Chappelle and Sarah Silverman.


Extended metaphor and analogy

Extended metaphor and analogy are ways of representing complex ideas to an audience.

An analogy is a comparison between two objects that shows similarities between things.

An extended metaphor is an extended comparison between two objects where one is object is represented as being another object. For example, in the statement “life is a journey,” life is presented as being the same as a journey. To make that an extended metaphor, we would represent moments in that journey as life events. Leaving the house would might be being born while reaching the destination may be approaching death.

Complex and challenging texts employ complex metaphors, extended metaphors, and analogies to convey ideas to readers.

You can read more about metaphor in our blog article.



Symbolism is a technique where objects, colours, and other aspects of a text are used to represent one or more concepts and ideas. Symbolism is a very old and very important technique.

Much of the literature you encounter in Year 10 and then Years 11 and 12 will employ symbolism is complex and sometimes abstract forms. Learning how to discuss it in Year 10 will prepare you for these later challenges.

If you would like to learn more about symbolism, you should read our article on symbolism.



Connotation is the feeling or idea that is conjured or evoked by a word. Connotation changes with usage and is often in flux.

Connotation is an important technique for creating complex meaning in texts.

For example, in Australian vernacular English, we often use the word “dog” with negative connotations. If we were to say, “They’re being dogs!” we would be connoting that they were behaving in an underhanded manner. So while this is a metaphor, it is a metaphor that negative connotations.



Irony is a complex technique where there is a gap between what is being said and what is being meant. This means that irony can be relatively straightforward verbal irony, where a character says something sarcastic, or more complex where a situation or setting is developed where the character’s behaviour or expectations.

There are 4 types of irony:

  1. Verbal irony: When a sentence states things that are the opposite of what convention says it should convey
  2. Situational irony: When a situation conveys something that is the opposite of what a character should say or do
  3. A structural feature like a naive or unreliable narrator
  4. Dramatic irony: A structural feature where the audience is aware of things that the character is not

Irony is a feature of many texts, especially those texts labelled as “Postmodern.”

To learn more about irony, read our detailed literary technique post.



Imagery is a technique where complex sensory experiences are created with words.

Imagery comes in five types corresponding to the senses:

  • Olfactory: Imagery conveying smells
  • Gustatory: Imagery conveying tastes
  • Tactile: Imagery conveying touch
  • Auditory: Imagery conveying sounds
  • Visual imagery: Imagery that contains pictures, colours or visual stimuli

Imagery may seem like a simple technique, but it can be consistently used throughout a text to develop irony, satire, symbolism, or connotation. It is very important that you are able to identify it and discuss how it creates meaning in a text.

if you want to learn more about imagery, read our detailed literary technique post


Thinking critically: bringing it all together

A big part of preparing for Years 11 and 12 is developing your critical thinking skills.


What is critical thinking?

Critical thinking is the process where we bring together the information we know about a subject and consider it to form a judgement or opinion about things.

Critical thinking for English requires two things:

  • Knowledge about the text from reading it
  • Knowledge about the text’s language features, context, genre, and use of form or structure

Once you have these, you need to combine them in your thinking.


Combining your ideas? What does this mean?

One of the questions you must address in your analysis of texts is the composer’s purpose and intended audience. This is a good place to start with your critical thinking about a text.

To begin the process of critical thinking, ask yourself the following questions:

  • How does the text reflect its context? Does it present contextual ideas in a good or bad light?
  • Is the text criticising or celebrating an idea from its context?
  • How does the text explore this concern? Does it use or subvert form, structure, or genre conventions?
  • What techniques is the composer using to get their ideas across?
  • Who does the intended audience seem to be? What form, structure, or genre have they used? For example, popular science fiction novels are texts that appeal to wide audiences and can be used to explore contemporary ideas. Poetry, on the other hand, tends to have a smaller, educated audience.
  • Has the composer been successful in communicating to this kind of audience? Why or why not?


Synthesising concepts and developing arguments

Bringing together these different ideas is called synthesising. This is a crucial skill for Advanced English. So, when you ask yourself these questions, make notes!

There is no such thing as too many notes when it comes to developing your understanding.

You can go back and streamline your notes once you have clarified and strengthened your ideas.

What you need to do once you have your interpretation of a text is to think about supporting it. To do this, you will need to start incorporating evidence from the text and developing a set of notes.

In our next article, that is what we will start doing.



Applying textual analysis skills to texts

From our next article, we are going to start applying these practices to texts. Over the next set of articles, we will show you how to analyse

  • Prose
  • Shakespeare
  • Film
  • Non-fiction, and
  • Digital texts

with the kind of insight, complexity, and sophistication that Year 10 demands.


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